I’ve had many people tell me that therapy doesn’t work. They have been to multiple therapists, and they come away saying that they are in worse shape than when they started. I know why.
A Case Study:
All names and scenarios have been changed for the sake of maintaining confidentiality.
Bill and Jane were feeling disconnected in their relationship. They never talked anymore. They were on the brink of divorce because they just could not see eye to eye on anything.
When the couple came in for therapy, we started by setting goals of effective communication and conflict resolution. This was all well and good until they started talking about the pain points that led to their disconnect. Then came the storm.
So, what happened?
Frequently, relationships fade over time. It happens so subtly that we wake up one day and ask ourselves, “Whoa! What happened? How did we get here?” We get busy and distracted with work, raising kids, managing finances, hobbies, you name it. Somewhere in the midst of all of the things, we lose sight of how much work it takes to keep relationships healthy. We write off a few frustrating traits as minor annoyances. We don’t deal with them because they’re “not a big deal.”
Over time, all those “not big deals” culminate into seemingly insurmountable problems. Resentment forms and underlying bitterness develops. A few years of this lands couples in the therapy office asking that question: What happened?
When we stop avoiding the issues, things get real!
I am sure that you have heard that admitting there is a problem is the first step to recovery, but this is a tough one. Nobody likes to admit they are wrong. When behaviors and mindsets that are not helpful are challenged, people get defensive. Bill and Jane started talking about old emotional wounds that were still tender to the touch. By the 6th session, the couple was communicating more than they had in years. However, some of the things they said were harsh and venomous because of the bitterness they both felt. After a few weeks of fighting, their hearts were emotionally closed. Bill and Jane were ready to throw in the towel, but I encouraged them to stick with it a little longer.
As therapy progressed, Bill and Jane realized that they were both pushing each other’s buttons. Over the next few weeks, they began to realize that they could experience calm after the storm. Once they recognized that they were tired of fighting, they acknowledged that they had some problems to work out, but they decided to get on the same team.
5 tips to weather the storm:
- Recognize that the problems are the problems. Your partner is not the problem.
- Acknowledge that dealing with past wounds is painful, but necessary for effective healing.
- Recognize the roles that forgiveness of self and others play in restoring peace.
- Trust the process. Therapy is effective only if you can persevere through the hard parts.
- Recognize that the storm is temporary, and the calm is coming.
One of my favorite things to see is the rainbow that follows a storm. I think of it as a symbol of peace. The storm may have been destructive, but the peace that follows is refreshing!
If you are in the midst of the storm, I encourage you to baton down the hatches and hang on. Don’t give up or let the storm destroy you. There can be peace on the other side.